How to read the Bible
Before we look at how to read the Bible, here�s what the Bible has to say about
- It is holy (II Timothy 3:15)
- It was written by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (II Timothy 3:16)
- It makes the man of God perfect (II Timothy 3:17)
- It should be used to teaching, rebuking, correcting and training (II Timothy 3:16)
- It is effective only if you believe (I Thessalonians 2:13)
- It was no written by the will of man (II Peter 1:20,21)
- It abides forever (Mark 13:31)
- It has and gives life (I Peter 1:23-25)
- It judges the thoughts and intents of man (Hebrews 4:12)
- It is heard throughout the world (Romans 10:17,18)
- It�s message is lost if we do not understand it (Matthew 13:19)
- It is used by some deceitfully (II Corinthians 4:2)
- It is the fulfillment of God�s Word (Luke 24:44)
- It should not be added or subtracted (Deuteronomy 12:32)
The five key steps to understanding the Bible and applying it�s truths in our daily
Each of these five steps plays an equal and important role. Like the five fingers
of our hand all five work together effectively "that the man of God may be perfect�".
In this technologically advancing age, it is easy to listen to the Word of God.
We often hear the Bible read and interpreted through radio, TV, internet, church
and in other fellowship of believers. With this privilege comes a risk. Not only
do we hear the Word of God but the interpretations. To avoid falling into false
doctrines, there in no better example for us than the example of the Bereans (Acts
17:11), "who having heard the word received the message with great eagerness and
examined the scripture every day to see if what Paul said was true" (NIV).
Here are some biblical tips for effective listening,
Outline of Old Testament
- Listen with a willingness to accept (Matthew 11:13-17)
When Jesus told the people that John the Baptist was the Elijah prophesied by Malachi,
they could not accept it because they were waiting for the return of Elijah himself.
- Listen with an open ear (Matthew 13:1-15)
The ears of some people in Jesus� time had become dull of hearing much like the
people of Isaiah�s time. We too get this feeling sometimes when we listen to a familiar
passage from the bible.
- Listen without worldly cares (Matthew 13:22)
If our mind is filled with worldly cares, listening to the Word of God won�t do
us any good. Like the thorns the worldly cares choke the word till it becomes unfruitful.
- Listen without prejudice based on the speaker (Matthew 23:2,3)
Jesus told his disciples and the multitude to hear and to do according to the teaching
of the scribes and the Pharisees but not to follow their actions.
- Listen with humility (James 1:21)
With humility we can experience the saving grace of the Word of God.
- Listen eagerly and intently (James 1:19-25)
If we listen casually we will be like the man who looks at himself in the mirror
and then forget how he looks immediately.
- Listen with readiness to confess sins the Word points out (James 1:21)
If we do not confess sins that the Holy Spirit convicts us of, when listening to
the Word, chances are that the same Word will judge us.
- Listen with the realization that it is the Word of God and not of man (I Thessalonians
Though this article is about reading the Bible, reading is but just one aspect of
"Reading" the Bible. The bible itself talks about reading. All throughout the Bible
people of God read the Word of God. It was the law and prophets in the old times.
Now, it's that and the words and works of Jesus and his apostles. Some read the
Word of God with reverence, like the people with Ezra (Nehemiah 8:5), some responded
with obedience or at least a desire to be obedient (Exodus 24:7) and some read without
even understanding (Acts 8:30,31). Jesus admonished his listeners many times with
the words, "Have ye not read...?".
Here are some tips for effective reading (some of these tips may not apply for some!),
- Read Systematically
The most logical method is the most reliable method for reading the Bible - reading
from Genesis all the way through Revelation. Though the Bible has been written by
many human authors (through divine inspiration), it is still not a bunch of disjointed
writing gathered into one big book. It is for the most part chronological and even
when it is not, there are reference that usually place it in a specific time period
in history. The Old Testament was fulfilled in Christ. It is mostly regarding the
state and affairs of the Israelites. Hebrews 10:1 says that the law has a shadow
of things to come and not the very image itself. The image is Christ, who is revealed
in the New Testament.
- Read at least two bibles
It is a good idea to maintain a clean Bible, by clean I mean an unmarked Bible.
It is likely that our brain will latch onto our previous thought on a subject if
it can recollect it based on our marking. There is a possibility that we might lose
some new truth that the Holy Spirit is trying to teach us.
- Read in different languages and translations
Some times different langugaes and even different translations can throw light on
a subject, that might not be readily obvious in a particluar language or tradition.
- Read aloud
This might not go well with everyone. If you feels you lose your concentration too
often then reading aloud may help you. Same goes with praying. Not everyone will
be able to keep their minds reined in while praying silently. That's why praying
aloud and also in groups may help concentrate.
- Read with the help of Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit convicts us of our sins. If we are convicted by a verse and continue
to read through ignoring it, that same verse that could have saved us will judge
us. (two-edged sword).
- Read with reverence
In this generation of breaking silly traditions, reverence is one of the unwitting
victims. People of God trembled whe the heard God's word. We rarely give it a second
- Read early in the morning
As always, early morning quite time is one of the most effective time spent with
The Bereans examined the scriptures everyday to see if Paul was speaking the truth
(Acts 17:11). Paul, had the reputation for effectively speaking and convincing both
Jews and the gentiles before coming to Berea. But that didn't stop the people of
Berea from searching the scriptures to validate Paul's message. Often, we start
believing �powerful� preachers by taking their word for granted. Anything they say
or do is biblical as long as they quote a reference from the bible. It is the duty
of everyone, especially Christians to study the bible and to discern the truth.
By studying the bible we can be better perpared to face temptations. The bible will
also be more meaningful to us.
Here are some questions that we can ponder to understand the bible better,
- Who said to whom?
If Paul was speaking to the non-believers it might not apply to believers.
What is the context?
- Why is it written?
Is it written to praise God? Is it written to warn us? Is it written to convict
us? Is it written to teach us?
- What do we learn from this?
What decisions should we make?
- Is there anything we should tell others?
Are there any doubts?
- Are there answers to previous doubts?
There is no single effective way to study the bible. For personal study, Thompson's
Chain reference bible can be good tool for topical study. The internet can be a
great resource if you know what you are looking for. Concordance, dictionary, atlas
and commentaries can also be useful tools if used properly. Small groups can also
be very effective.
Holy Spirit teaches and reminds us of the truth when we study the bible (John 14:26).
Avoid doctrinal issues and focus on personal growth if possible. If any doctrinal
issue should be persued, approach with an open mind. Never bend the bible to suit
your belief. Remember God looks at the heart and not the outward actions.
When we think of memorizing our mind immediatley recalls the days when we memorized
the multiplication tables in maths or dates in history. Memorizing is attributed
to the school days. As Christians, we need to keep memorizing the Word of God. How
else can we defend against Satan. Jesus himself showed us the example by knocking
down Satan's challenges with words from the scriptures. In Ps 119:11, David says
that he has hidden the word of God in his heart so that he might not sin. The Word
of God can be a powerful tool when we are tempted to fall into sinful situations.
If we know the Word of God, the Holy Spirit will remind us of those words at appropriate
times. When we are tempted to lie, he'll remind us that if we lie the truth is not
in us and that we are the children of the devil, the father of lies. Similarly there
are references for every sinful situation that we need to know.